Jellison for the juvenile.
Yeshulas, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.
Melissa Allen Celli, for youth advocacy division of the
Committee for Public Counsel Services & others, amici
curiae, submitted a brief.
slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and
are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the
Official Reports. If you find a typographical error or other
formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions,
Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton
Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA, 02108-1750; (617) 557-103 0;
February 20, 2018, a complaint issued against the juvenile
charging him with disturbing a school assembly, in violation
of G. L. c. 272, § 40, as amended by St. 1969, c. 463,
§ 1. He was arraigned in the Juvenile Court on the same
day. At the time, § 40 provided that "[w]hoever
wilfully interrupts or disturbs a school . . . shall be
punished." While the juvenile's case was pending in
the Juvenile Court, on April 13, 2018, the Legislature
enacted "An Act relative to criminal justice
reform" (act). St. 2018, c. 69. As part of the act, the
Legislature struck the former statute in its entirety and
replaced it. The statute now provides:
"Whoever willfully interrupts or disturbs an assembly of
people meeting for a lawful purpose shall be punished by
imprisonment for not more than [one] month or by a fine of
not more than [fifty dollars]; provided, however, that an
elementary or secondary student shall not be adjudged a
delinquent child for an alleged violation of this section for
such conduct within school buildings or on school grounds or
in the course of school-related events."
c. 272, § 40, as appearing in St. 2018, c. 69, §
159. A judge in the Juvenile Court declined to apply the
amended statute retroactively to the juvenile's conduct,
and the juvenile was adjudicated delinquent in October 2018.
We granted the juvenile's application for direct
appellate review to consider whether St. 2018, c. 69, §
159, should be applied retroactively to cases pending on
April 13, 2018. We conclude that it should. We vacate
the delinquency adjudication and remand the matter to the
Juvenile Court for dismissal of the complaint.
On February 16, 2018, while sitting with other boys at a
school lunch table, the juvenile made "prank"
telephone calls to a help hotline and a television news
station. When he spoke to the news station, the juvenile said
something to the effect of: "I didn't get my lunch,
I feel like killing someone." The news station contacted
the police and a brief investigation identified the source of
the calls as the juvenile's telephone and a
tablemate's telephone. By that time, the juvenile had
been released from school for an unrelated reason. Because
the juvenile was no longer inside the school, the school
administration ordered the students, faculty, and staff to
shelter in place, disrupting the school routine. The order
remained in effect for about an hour, until both boys were
The applicable principles of statutory construction were
recently described in Lazlo L. v. Commonwealth, 482
Mass. 325, 328-330 (2019), and need not be repeated here. To
summarize, in construing a "strictly penal"
statute,  Commonwealth v. Dotson, 462
Mass. 96, 99 (2012), the presumption is that "[t]he
repeal of a statute shall not affect any . . . proceeding
pending at the time of the repeal for an offence committed .
. . under the statute repealed," unless that
construction would be "[(1)] inconsistent with the
manifest intent of the law-making body or [(2)] repugnant to
the context of the same statute." G. L. c. 4, § 6.
Our analysis begins, therefore, with the presumption that St.
2018, c. 69, § 159, is prospective in application.
L. provides the framework for discussion. In that case,
we considered whether either exception to the presumption of
prospectivity applied to a different section of the same act.
See St. 2018, c. 69, § 72. That section amended the
definition of "delinquent child" to, among other
things, provide that a child who commits a first offense of a
misdemeanor "for which the punishment is a fine,
imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more
than [six] months or both" may not be adjudicated a
"delinquent child." id. With respect to the first
exception, we concluded that there was "inadequate
evidence of the Legislature's manifest intent to apply
§ 72 retroactively to overcome the presumption of
prospective application." Lazlo L., 482 Mass.
at 331-332. For the same reasons we explained in Lazlo
L., we conclude that the first exception to the
presumption of prospectivity does not apply to St. 2018, c.
69, § 159. Neither the Legislature clearly established
that the amendment "would apply retroactively to pending
cases . . . [n]or are there any other provisions in the act
that would make prospective application of [§ 159]
'anomalous, if not absurd.'" Lazlo L.,
supra at 332, quoting Commonwealth v.
Bradley, 466 Mass. 551, 554 (2013).
second exception applies where "prospective application
would be 'repugnant to the context' of the statutory
amendment." Lazlo L., 482 Mass. at 332, quoting
G. L. c. 4, § 6. We consider in this context whether
"it would be contrary to the purpose of the statute to
delay the accomplishment of that purpose." Lazlo
L., supra, quoting Bradley, 466 Mass.
at 555-556. We described the legislative history of the act
in Lazlo L_., supra at 333, observing that
"the Legislature understood that children who enter the
juvenile justice system have a higher risk of reoffending for
the remainder of their lives, and . . . their risk of
recidivism is greater the earlier they enter the
system." In § 72, the Legislature narrowed the
definition of "delinquent child" to "reduce
the number of children who enter the juvenile justice
system." Lazlo L., supra. See Wallace W. v.
Commonwealth, 482 Mass. 789, 795 (2019). In § 159,
the Legislature furthered the same purpose by specifically
removing certain school-based offenses from the sphere of
infractions for which juveniles may be adjudicated
delinquent. As we said in Lazlo L., supra
at 334, "[w]e see no reason to delay the application of
an amendment aimed at combatting the negative effects of
Juvenile Court involvement on children and their
conclusion that § 159 has retroactive application to
cases pending on April 13, 2018, is further buttressed by the
jurisdictional nature of the amendment. See Lazlo
L., 482 Mass. at 335. As of April 13, 2018, "the
Juvenile Court no longer has jurisdiction to adjudicate as a
'delinquent child, '" id.., a juvenile
who "interrupts or disturbs an assembly of people"
within "school buildings or on school grounds or in the
course of school-related events," G. L. c. 272, §
40, as appearing in St. 2018, c. 69, § 159. See G. L. c.
119, § 58. "Because jurisdiction is a threshold
requirement for a court to decide any case, it would have
been logical for the Legislature to expect that Juvenile
Court proceedings against children" for violation of the
school assembly statute "would cease and the cases would
be dismissed on the day" that § 159 became
effective and school-based adjudications of delinquency were
removed from the statute. Lazlo L., supra,
citing Commonwealth v. ...